Emmy award-winning actress Cicely Tyson, known for her portrayal of strong Black women on screen, is no more. She was 96.
Tyson, who was nominated at the Oscars for her role in “Sounder”, passed away on Thursday. The news of her demise was announced by her family through her manager Larry Thompson, reports variety.com
“I have managed Miss Tyson’s career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing,” said Thompson, adding: “Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life. Today she placed the last ornament, a Star, on top of the tree.”
Tyson’s memoir “Just As I Am” was published on Tuesday.
The actress had her Hollywood break in the 1959 Harry Belafonte film “Odds Against Tomorrow”, and followed it with films like “The Comedians”, “The Last Angry Man”, “A Man Called Adam” and “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter”.
Tyson received an Oscar nomination in 1973 for Martin Ritt’s drama “Sounder” and an Honorary Oscar in 2018.
She is also known for featuring in “Miss Jane Pittman”, “Roots”, “The Wilma Rudolph Story”, “King: The Martin Luther King Story”, “When No One Would Listen”, “A Woman Called Moses”, “The Marva Collins Story”, “The Women Of Brewster Place”, “The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” and the TV adaptation of “Trip To Bountiful”.
Throughout her career, Tyson refused to play drug addicts, prostitutes or maids as she thought it demeaned and stereotyped Black women. The actress was one of 25 Black women honoured for their contribution to art, entertainment and civil rights as part of Oprah Winfrey’s 2005 Legends Ball.
Several Hollywood stars mourned her demise.
Actress Viola Davis, who co-starred with Tyson in “How To Get Away With Murder”, shared a long note: “I’m devastated. My heart is just broken. I loved you so much!! You were everything to me! You made me feel loved and seen and valued in a world where there is still a cloak of invisibility for us dark chocolate girls. You gave me permission to dream.”
“Because it was only in my dreams that I could see the possibilities in myself. I’m not ready for you to be my angel yet. But…I also understand that it’s only when the last person who has a memory of you dies, that you’ll truly be dead. In that case, you will be immortal. Thank you for shifting my life. Thank you for the long talks. Thank you for loving me. Rest well,” Davis added.
Oprah Winfrey posted: “Of all the times and experiences we shared together, this was one of my favorites .. What a joy to honor her and feel her receive it! I loved her hat so much, she sent it to me afterwards. Cicely decided early on that her work as an actor would be more than a job. She used her career to illuminate the humanity of Black people. The roles she played reflected her values; she never compromised. Her life so fully lived is a testimony to Greatness.”
Ava DuVernay looked back at working with Tyson in “Rosa Parks Story” and “Cherish The Day”.
“Your hugs I’ll remember. How your petite arms wrapped around me like mighty branches of a sunlit tree, strong and warm. Your laugh I’ll remember. How it came easily and heartily and sounded like good music,” DuVernay wrote, adding: “Your work I’ll remember. How your brave portrayals transformed the way the world witnessed Black women, whether they could accept what you shared or not.”
Stars including Halle Berry, Debbie Allen, Whoopi Goldberg, Octavia Spencer, Regina King, Lena Waithe, and Gayle King also sent in tributes for the departed soul.
Actress Gabrielle Union looked up at Tyson’s legacy, writing: “We have lost a visionary, a leader, a lover, an author, an ICON, and one of the most talented actresses the world has ever seen. A life, a career, a fire to celebrated forevermore!”
In her message of remembrance, Zendaya wrote: “This one hurts, today we honor and celebrate the life of one of the greatest to ever do it. Thank you Cicely Tyson. Rest in great power.”